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Many health websites suggest a substitute for cooking oil as olive pomace oil. Some also say that extra virgin olive oil can be used for cooking. I can't remember when but a newspaper featured that cooking with extra virgin olive oil (specifically) causes cancer. And some others say that olive oil shouldn't be heated at all!

Example of the claim:

The first to slander EVOO was New York-based nutritionist Christian Henderson. “Never cook with olive oil,” she said. “There’s a reason why oils are cold-pressed; they break down at higher temperatures, and they’re not good for you.” Boom.

To what extent are any of these claims true, if at all any of them are true?

  • I'd try to restrict this questiona a bit and make it more specific. The claim "extra virgin olive oil causes cancer when heated" seems to be notable, there are quite a few instances of it findable with a quick search. – Mad Scientist Jan 17 '14 at 17:13
  • I found this and this interesting but I personally do not have enough information about the subject to answer. – Some Freemason Jan 17 '14 at 17:21
  • I think your question would be a good one here if you can find a reference to someone else making your claim (which can be narrowed down to "does cooking with olive oil give you cancer". – matt_black Jan 17 '14 at 21:16
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In general, oil is not healthy when burnt. Burnt oil has many negative health effects.

As far as oils go, extra virgin olive oil has the very desirable property of a high smoke point, which means it is less likely to burn when cooked, and makes it an option for frying. That said, more refined oils like olive pomace oil have an even higher smoke point and lighter taste making them ideal for frying. (Ref.)

Keep also in mind that the quality of the oil makes the smoke point vary significantly.

That said, as far as oils go, olive pomace oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are all "healthy" oils given low levels of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Regarding cancer, extra virgin olive oil is considered a potential anticarcinogenic, so quite the opposite of the claim.

Compared to other vegetable oils, the presence of several phenolic antioxidants in olive oil is believed to prevent the occurrence of a variety of pathological processes, such as cancer.

-- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24326154

There have been numerous evidences supporting the relationship between olive oil and cancer, with most of the attention being directed toward its fat and phenolic content. [...] It was observed that upon combination treatment, anti-proliferation effects and apoptosis induction were augmented.

-- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24161488

Many of these studies are more generally about the Mediterranean diet, where olive oil of all kinds is commonly used in cooking.

  • My impression was that extra virgin olive oil has a rather low smoke point compared to most other oils typically used in the kitchen. My bottle even has a warning not to heat it above 175 °C. – Mad Scientist Jan 18 '14 at 14:47
  • @Fabian it has pretty much the highest smoke point of all unrefined oils (207C for high quality olive oil, compare with 120-150C for butter or 160C for unrefined sunflower oil). That said, it is an unrefined oil, and refined, specialist oils will obviously perform better. – Sklivvz Jan 18 '14 at 14:56
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    I think comparing it only to unrefined oils can easily be misunderstood, I'd compare it with all oils commonly used in cooking and there it is on the lower end of the smoke point range. – Mad Scientist Jan 18 '14 at 15:04
  • @Fabian if you can reference that I'll add it to my answer, but my impression is that, at least in Italian cuisine, butter and olive oil are by far the two most common fats used in cooking, followed by sunflower oil for deep-fat frying only. – Sklivvz Jan 18 '14 at 15:06
  • I think we're simply running into regional differences here, I found an article claiming that in Italy olive oil is considered best for frying, while in the US is is considered unsuitable. The article also claims that the smoke point varies a lot between different oils of the same kind. – Mad Scientist Jan 18 '14 at 15:28

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